I work with high growth companies and growth focused leaders. Daily I get to experience people that, in spite of setbacks, inspire me with their resiliency. There is a name for it this – growth mindset. In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck shares her research and belief that there are growth and fixed mindset individuals.
We all know these people:
- Growth mindset people believe in their ability to learn and figure out almost anything.
- Fixed mindset people are quick to point out ‘why not’ when faced with a challenge – and keep that voice throughout the work.
- Growth mindset people have a mechanism to adapt when situations require them to make a personal change.
- Fixed mindset people lead and/or end with That is the way I am.
- Growth mindset people are quick to set aside their EGO, and ask a question.
- Fixed mindset people are quick to protect their EGO, and make a statement.
- Growth mindset people have feelings and get butterflies, they just don’t hide behind them or allow them to define their next step.
Which one do you see or hear in yourself? Which do you see most prominently on your team?
Entrepreneurial spirit is a trait that is desired by both Fortune 100 and Inc. 5000 companies. The powerful thing about this distinction is that it’s quickly displayed when the work starts.
It is one reason why a company in Ann Arbor called Menlo Innovations does a test in an interview where two people have to solve a problem with on pencil and one piece of paper. It is why a strategic planning process I use (EOS) has direct feedback from your teammates in day 1 around whether you Get It, Want It, and have the Capacity to do the job the organization needs you to do. It is the reason selection for a growth company first asks the question – Right Person? The Right Seat will show up eventually if it is not there already.
I have a formula in my book that urges people in the midst of change to manage their mental state so Hope > Fear + Anger + Frustration + Worry + Hunger + Weariness + ______ + _______. NOBODY is always in balance – but I have watched growth mindset people bounce back time after time from tough situations where they were clearly in a Hope < Fear + Anger + etc. situation.
As you end your week – how is your formula looking? Which label are you living into? How can you support a shift in someone around you?
One of my favorite TED talks is Connected, but alone? by Sherry Turkle. It is significant because it brings research behind my belief that social media DOES NOT replace talking in building healthy relationships, and that is a significant concept as Millenials, Gen X, Boomers, and any other groups continue to form teams and work together. We already made the label/assumption mistake in the diversity conversation, and I see the world repeating that mistake with technology and generations working together.
I was so excited about the video I bought the book (Alone Together) and it has been painful to read. One word for the book – Terrible.
So do I dismiss the video and reframe my view of Sherry Turkle? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Failure in one form of art does not mean a voice should be dismissed. Ten years ago I worried about failure as a career derailer, then I joined an entrepreneurial organization and realized failing fast and moving on was the measure in this world.
It still hurts to suck sometimes. Failure is painful, regardless of the external smile people put on. The choice is to wear the failure as a weight or as wisdom for the next opportunity.
Remember leaders – you play a significant role in helping your people with this choice. How do you use failure with your team?
As a test: Next meeting brainstorm around the biggest personal/team failures of the past quarter – and end with a conversation about What did I/we learn? and What will we do differently in the next 3 months because of it? Your teams ability to do this will give you your answer on how you lead through failure/mistakes.
Passion – I am torn on this topic by people that come up to me for advice on starting their own business and realizing the independence they long for. I have learned to listen closely for their why, and if they start with the outcome of entrepreneurism and not the work, they have it backwards. I challenge those people (and myself) to keep the focus on the gifts you have and the work that excites you. Seth Godin shifts our perspective on our gifts by challenging each of us to think of ourselves as Artists – and makes the comment Art is the intentional act of using your humanity to create change in another person. He goes on to share that most artists can’t draw.
Hidden in the whole conversation of performance is passion. Here are three things I have learned about passion of the artist:
- Passion is the hidden ingredient in performance: In my book People-Centered Performance I share my belief that Performance = Talent + Passion + Work
- Passion does not have to reside in just the work, it could be the team, or the cause, or even the need to eat.
- Passion is without complaint, so if we can do the work with excitement and ownership, and without complaint, we are close.
- It is impossible to be an artist and not have passion.
A great summary of passion came from a recent book I read called The Boys in the Boat. In it, the master shell builder George Pocock talks about his work and what drove his choices:
My ambition has always been to be the greatest shell buiilder in the world; and without false modesty I believe I have attained that goal. If I were to sell the stock, I fear I would lose my incentive and become a wealthy man, but a second-rate artisan. I prefer to remain a first-class artisan.
I like watching for passion in others, and instead of starting with a pen and paper to write your statement of passion, start by observing and talking to others. There is energy in watching the artist work, and they can be found all around us.
Remember, most artists can’t draw, and most artists aren’t entrepreneurs.
I connect students to parents and grandparents.
What do you think the person who made that statement does as a chosen profession?
Lt. Col. Paul Scheidler has served our country for over 20 years, has served multiple deployments in the Middle East, and has been awarded the bronze star. Oh, and he also happens to be an American History Teacher at Heartland High School in Hartland, Michigan. The DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) in Michigan recognized him as the 2015 Outstanding American History Teacher.
We have a choice each day to do our job or to make our work about our purpose, cause or passion. It is always a choice.
It was a treat to be in the same room and feel the magnetic pull of the purpose that oozed out of Lt. Col./Mr. Scheidler. I bet his students feel the same way.
Your job does not matter as much as the reason you do it. What is your reason? Just ask your teammates – I am sure they know.
Below is an excerpt from Eric Schurenberg’s column in the March 2015 edition of Inc. Magazine. He is the editor. I also think Inc. is the best source of leadership advice for entrepreneurial minded leaders. Here is the full post.
. . . ideas alone don’t build companies. Building takes leadership, and leadership takes continuous, counterintuitive, ego-minimizing work. That was one lesson I took from a recent half-day meeting led by Alan Mulally, retired CEO of Ford and Boeing. . . . . “Keep reminding yourself,” he kept reminding the room, “it’s not about you.” It’s about the plan. The leader’s job is to ensure that the team has a compelling vision; to help everyone understand the strategy for realizing that vision; and to see that everyone is working together to implement the plan. When teams truly need to mesh, it doesn’t matter whether you were once the world’s best coder or salesperson or idea man. Your job is now facilitator. Behavior matters. . . . what was allowed at Boeing and Ford: admitting problems and asking for help. What was not: texting in meetings, finger-pointing, putdowns, or anything else that interfered with a sense of shared effort. “Working together works,” says Mulally. “Smart people working together always works.”
In my second chapter of my book(People-Centered Performance) I talk about the OBN leader – the one who knows what they OUGHT to do, BUT they DON’T. Mulally’s gives some practical advice for fighting the OBN trap.
As a coach and consultant, performance conversations tend to start with emotions and adjectives. One of the challenges in gaining clarity is to have a conversation that gets down to the root cause, and it also means talking to both the frustrated leader and the individual. Here are the questions I ask:
- Do they/you know what is expected of you at work? What are they?
- Do they/you have the tools and resources to do your job well? (see question 3 for how to deep dive on the specifics)
- If Yes to both 1 and 2, do you feel you/they GWC the role. (G = Get It, W = Want It, C = Capacity to do it) *GWC is from a strategic planning tool I use called EOS
I don’t look at creating a performance focused culture, because my experience has shown me that leaders take this path by starting with accountability and expecting work to get done. I have learned through Denison, a partner company I use for surveys, and my own experience that it is important to focus on creating a culture that supports performance. It aligns with my own belief that individuals own their performance and development, and the organization owns support.
When we start with defining the target together and supporting the work to get there (frequent one on ones, asking what they need, following through, repeating often), more often than not it ends in a trusting relationship where the important things can get talked about. Leaders, this is your work in SUPPORTING performance through the culture you create.
When people ask you what they can do to help, tell them. Beware of asking for the extremes – no help (because you are frustrated, angry at someone, or your EGO is on overdrive) or having them do everything. Sales is a great example because of the frequent ups and downs in a challenging market. When you are missing sales numbers – role playing, prioritizing your leads, reviewing your pipeline are all great support activities. Maybe even asking some people to make some calls for you or leverage relationships they have in some of your maybe companies.
Support is a two way street, it has to be offered and it has to be accepted. The times we get in life when it has to be forced are the tough times. Just ask an adult child who has arranged assisted living or nursing home care for a parent. If the point is reached where a leader feels they need to force assistance in getting work done (what individuals often call micro-managing) it is probably time for you to leave.
I know it is never that easy, but it is that simple. If that outcome is not what you want, then start back at the beginning and make a commitment to change your half of the conversation.
Change is relatively easy, when it’s our choice. They key is how you react when it is not your choice.
- I wanted to try a different haircut. Easy. Mom takes you to the salon and ‘the stylist was terrible’. Not so easy and you cry and tell her you hate her.
- You make a choice to leave a job for a new one. relatively Easy. Your employer decides you need a new job. Hard and you stop trusting leaders and companies.
- Your leader involves you in a conversation about a restructuring of the work in your company. relatively Easy. Your leader brings you into a room to share the new organizational structure they created in the last few months AND your job changes. Hard and you tell your leader it is a dumb idea and you will not support it under any circumstances.
Leaders involve people in conversations that drive change. Effective leaders do anyway.
It is also a harsh reality that we cannot expect our leaders to involve us in everything. There are lots of reasons why you will not be involved – time, leader decides not to ask, leader can’t tell you, you are viewed as bringing little value to strategic conversations, they forgot to ask, etc.
Here are three things individuals need to do to reset themselves for change:
- Get emotional – constructively! Go work out, write an email – then DELETE it, put your corporate logo/leaders picture on a dart board and play darts, or go watch Office Space. Bottling it up is no good. Just let it out in a way that does not pollute the atmosphere around the change. Not everything we are thinking needs to be heard, and it is normal to experience a strong voice of resistance in our heads when the change hits.
- Make a choice: Are you ready to lead it or explore what it means and what role you can play? Not asking you to be a lemming, just telling you not to be the person who silently tries to make it fail. If you decide to become the resistance to change, don’t be surprised if your role in future changes becomes smaller.
- Ask questions: Information is needed for us to process change and it will help the leader share the why for the change. The only way for you to effectively lead the change is to be able to talk about it with the passion and knowledge of your leader. Asking great questions will help that.
You should expect your leaders to manage change well, and give them a little grace when it does not go so well. You can help by mastering the process of going through change as someone who contributes and participates in it. As Seth Godin would say – those people are Linchpins. Leaders need more Linchpins!
When relationships matter, process trumps outcome
As leaders, we are measured largely by outcomes. Did the work get done? Was the margin there? Yet there is a process that helps us achieve those outcomes that does call into question what we believe is most important?
In my work with growing companies I have learned to ask the question “What is your funding source – debt/cash flow, private equity, or venture capital?” I can usually feel the difference, but ask just to make sure. When speed and growth/returns are so critical (latter two), then generally outcome trumps process.
Your talent strategy should reflect your belief in what is most important in your business. This is also not about a good and bad labeling exercise. Those words tend to stop a conversation and start an argument. I use effective and not-effective, because it forces us to remember the outcomes we wanted in the beginning. If our goal is 30% EBITDA growth and a few leaders get burned out and leave, maybe that is okay. Fast growing companies need to be great at bringing in leaders/personalities that will figure it out and be successful. That needs to be there #1 focus.
You see, the other edge to this sword is building trust. Peter Drucker once said “The existence of trust does not necessarily mean they like one another, it means they understand one another.” As a leader, just be clear with your beliefs and lead accordingly. Actions need to align with beliefs, so people can see consistency in your approach. You also need to continue to ask yourself “Are the results in my business and my team are proving my methods effective or not effective?”
I love having this conversation with leaders, because is revealing and it matters. It also helps people define their own path to increasing their own capacity to lead. That is a process I can get excited about.
When relationships matter, process trumps outcome
**If you want to dive into this topic a little deeper, chapter 2 in my book outlines what I call the OBN (Ought But Not) Leader. On Amazon.
Are you adaptable?
I am reminded of a conversation I had with Greg Hartle who spent 18 months doing something I thought was crazy. He started with $10 and a laptop and travelled around the US meeting people in transition and helping them. He blogged about it, took odd jobs when he could, and spoke to groups about his journey (fyi – before his trip he almost died from kidney failure – so there was quite a story there).
One observation he made was that the key ability he saw as critical to the people he was meeting in career transitions was the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. For me, it was a simple, yet profound statement as I work with organizations and leaders in growth transitions. Here are two thoughts . . .
1. It does not mean abandon your values and beliefs. Adaptable is ‘able to change or be Are you adaptable? Success in business and in life means understanding and managing the changes that approach. Transitions as leaders, parents, spouses, friends are full of moments where the current way of doing things/reacting will not work, and we have to ask ourselves – in order to fit or work better in some situation or for some purpose.’ If you have to work for an organization with a social focus – great! If we are being asked to build a process around sales so others can do what we do and do it the same way and we resist – hmm?
2. It does mean that when we find ourselves stuck or frustrated, the first question we need to ask is “What about this situation frustrates me?” At the core of our answer is the issue, and in my experience most often the issue is in our recognition of the change and how we will have to adapt to operate in the new normal.
One habit that helps this – When entering change conversations – once we process the issue and the end goal, to simply ask “To be successful, what do we need to: Keep doing? Start doing? Stop doing?”
As a person – I go back to Greg’s observation – “Based on what challenges I face – What do I need to: Learn? Unlearn? Relearn?”
Have you ever met the smartest person in the room?
Yesterday I had the opportunity to see Captain John Meier, the commanding officer of the Commanding Officer of the USS Gerald R. Ford. He asked this question as he talked about steps he was taking to build the team that will launch this new aircraft carrier in 2016. The one thing I will say about Captain Meier is that he spoke simply about leadership, and showed a deep understanding of the power of serving others first as a leader. Another great thing is he was not selling a book, he was just taking time out of his busy day to tell his story.
How many of you walk into a room chanting “I am not the smartest person in this room . . . “? I would never ask a leader to do that, and yet there are ways our actions can say it.
Captain Meier shared a couple of tips he had for living this mantra through your actions as a leader:
- Always keep an open mind in problem solving sessions – challenge your team to bring/share solutions and just listen.
- Make Learning a part of your day.
Imagine the power of spending time each day having someone on your team teach you something? You implement Salesforce? Ask someone to show you how to enter a new customer and then do 2 on your own with their help. When we make a habit out of the two tips shared above we are demonstrating our intent to serve first as a leader. It is never that easy, but it is always that simple.
Great conversations start with a question. I spend time with leaders like Captain Meier because they ask great questions.
If you have never met the smartest person in the room you are not looking hard enough.